Damascus: Makers of Swords
Date: eleventh century
Mayzad ibn ʿAli, a Damascene smith wrote a book describing the sword making process, which involves construction of furnaces, the making of eggs of steel, making and designing crucibles, and a description of clays and their specifications. Some of the materials to be used in this complex process include iron, golden marcasite, pomegranate peels, pearl shells and powdered magnesia.
Citation: Biruni, Abu Rayhan Muhammad, Kitāb al-jamāhir fī maʿrifat al-jawāhir (‘Sum of the knowledge of precious stones’) (ed.) E. Krenkow (Hyderabad, 1936), p. 256. The translation of this passage appears in Robert Hoyland and Brian Gilmour. Medieval Islamic Swords and Swordmaking: Kindi’s Treatise ‘On Swords and their Kinds’ (Edition, Translation, and Commentary) (London: E. J. W. Gibb Memorial Trust, 2006), pp. 154-55.
Date: fifteenth century
Bertrandon de la Brocquière, a French traveler, noted that Damascene blades are the handsomest and best of all Syria. The polish and burnishing of the blade is so highly finished that a person could use his sword as a mirror. In addition, the tempering of the sword is very well done as Brocquière had never seen a sword that cut so excellently.
Citation: Wright, Thomas (trans.), Early Travels in Palestine (London: Henry G. Bohn, 1848. Reprinted: Mineola NY: Dover Publications 2003), from the Travels of Bertrandon de la Brocquière (1432-32), p. 304.
Stereograph card published at the turn of the century documents a sword maker in Damascus, whose swords were once considered “the finest swords in the world”.
Citation: Underwood & Underwood, P. (ca. 1900) A Sword Maker of Damascus, Whose Swords Were Once Considered the Finest in the World, Syria. New York, N.Y.: Underwood & Underwood, April 27.